Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Daniels Picks Fort Wayne Cop To Run ICJI

Gov. Daniels has tapped Mike Cunegin, a Fort Wayne police officer and Allen Co. Council member, to replace Heather Bolejack as the executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. Niki Kelly of the Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette reports:

The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute – whose executive director was fired in May in a messy ethics scandal – is getting a new leader: longtime Fort Wayne police officer and Allen County Councilman Mike Cunegin.

The institute’s board of directors Tuesday unanimously ratified Gov. Mitch Daniels’ recommendation for Cunegin to take over the state agency.

Cunegin will give notice of his resignation to the Fort Wayne Police Department today, and plans to resign from the County Council in July.

Reacting to his appointment, Cunegin said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for me.” “It’s exciting. Not only am I representing the governor of our state, but I’m also representing myself and the African-American community.” Actually, Mr. Cunegin, I think you're representing all of the citizens of Indiana if it makes any difference to you.

Kelly notes that Daniels has been criticized in the past for failing to appoint enough "black agency heads." She says Cunegin thinks he's the man for the job. She writes:

Cunegin said his 25 years in law enforcement as well as 12 years on the fiscal-minded council – including two years as president – have been training for an opportunity such as this. The institute oversees state planning for criminal justice, traffic safety and victim services, and administers millions of dollars in state and federal money to carry out long-range strategies.

What the agency really needs is someone with some actual management experience. It is obvious Gov. Daniels placed the importance of appointing an African-American to the post over appointing a person with actual qualifications for the job--someone who might know where to begin in cleaning up the mess at the agency.

UPDATE: A WANE-TV report from August 1, 2005 reported that Cunegin was invited to greet President Bush at the airport during a visit to Ft. Wayne. It notes that Cunegin told WANE-TV that he had Bush sign a book entitled, "The Presidential Prayer Team." Cunegin said of meeting Bush for the second time, “You're always excited to meet the President. I have the highest respect for President Bush on the decisions he had to make for the county. And it's wonderful to not only have that but to also have a Christian man in office.”

I'm sure Cunegin meant well by his statement about having "a Christian man in office." But when our public officials speak in these terms, it implies that they believe there should be a religious litmus test applied to all people who serve in our government. It says to someone of Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or other religious or non-religious belief that they need not apply. As the Christian right continues to extend its power over the GOP, comments like these keep popping up with greater frequency. And it's frightening to many Americans.


Anonymous said...

AS I recall Heather played the race card when the Board fired her. I'm sorry to see that her replacement looks at his new role in terms of race. It should have nothing to do with race.

Anonymous said...

Mike probably didn't mean it the way its sounds. He really is a nice guy. I wish him much success in his new job, but I do wonder if he has the right kind of experience this job will require.

Mitch Harper said...

Mike is extraordinarily polite and diplomatic. I've known him since high school.

His district extends from the central city of Fort Wayne, through New Haven and beyond to Monroeville, Indiana and the Indiana/Ohio state line. It has to be one of the most demographically and geographically diverse districts in the state.

Believe me, he is as popular in the rural townships of the district as he is in Fort Wayne.

I just can't see how you might try to give a full picture of a guy out of a few quotes.

I think that discussion of Mike's administrative experience presents some fair questions.

The flip side of that, though, is that Mike offers a breadth of experience relative to the position that no other prospective candidate for the position would have.

He's worked for an urban police department; he's had responsibility for the oversight of the budgets of a large county sheriff's department and other criminal justice entities; and, he's represented a smaller suburban city and a rural town having, respectively, a separate police department and a town marshal.

Advance Indiana said...

Mitch--I appreciate your perspective on it. His race should be irrelevant; however, he raised it in his interview about his new job. I think that is unfortunate, particularly since Bolejack raised the race issue in the context of her termination.

As you know, many of the grants go to local law enforcement agencies. There have been accusations about a lot of cronyism and conflicts of interest with respect to the awarding of grants. Some of the board members represent agencies which have been grant recipients. I'm not sure he's the right person to clean up the integrity of the grant process given his strong ties to local law enforcement agencies, including one that I believe has been a past recipient of grant money.

Anonymous said...

Correction - Heather did not play the race card. The media did then made it appear as if Heather brought it up. All who know Heather are aware that is not her style. In fact, full disclosure of her comments spoke to other concerns, not race.

Advance Indiana said...

Anonymous 4:22--you've brought up that argument repeatedly. That is how she was quoted in the Indianapolis Star. When the Star prints a retraction, I will gladly do so as well.

Anonymous said...

Gary, here is what I heard. The Star put the race mention under her picture. Bolejack was furious about them misrepresenting her comments and called the Star. Subsequent to that one mention THEY have not repeated in any of their stories any mention of Heather playing the race card.

Not quite sure why you want to continue posting information that is false. C'mon Gary, you know the local media often hoses up stories.

I believe you have contacts that could confirm what I've heard on this.

Advance Indiana said...

Anonymous 6:23--the quote from the Star reads: "You fight not going there, when you're a person of color,'' Bolejack said late Friday in her attorney's office. "You don't want to throw that card on the table. But how can I turn away from that at this point?"

I'm sure Ms. Penner just made up the quote as far as you're concerned. Heather apparently never does anything wrong in your mind.

Anonymous said...

Were you there? Do you know the sentences that came before and came after - the context? Did you listen to Heather's Channel 13 interview? Did you listen to Heather's interview on Amos?

You mis-represent Heather when you say she played the race card. PERIOD!

You have the ability to contact her yourself to discuss this if you want the truth. Your blog seemed to be one that tried to get at the truth - thought you wanted to distinguish yourself in that manner. Perhaps I was wrong about you?

Advance Indiana said...

Ms. Penner of the Star was present for the interview, and that was the quote she attributed to Heather. The Star has never publicly retracted the quote it attributed to her. That's where your energy should be focused. This blog reaches a very small audience of a few hundred a day compared to the Star, which is read by several hundred thousand every day.

Advance Indiana said...

BTW anonymous 7:59--Abdul Hakim Shabazz also reported on the race card issue as well. Why aren't you talking to him? He's on the radio every morning.

credo said...

It is obvious that Cunegin is not raced white..that was probably the biggest surprise, the second surprise is that he acutally met the President of the United States, third that he announced his pride in being an African-American.

This blog has no problem with celebrating gay pride..the fact is that you don't believe that African-Americans should be given the privilege that are given to unqualified raced whites, position of authority over other raced whites based on who they know..croyninism.

Mike is definitely not a Heather Bolejack who was highly qualified, but was labeled unfit for a job that had problems long before she got there.

Go ask Daniels how he selected this candidate, especially with all the possible candidates in the state's capital.

Advance Indiana said...

Your assumptions about me Credo are completely wrong. I think an agency that is in dire need of being cleaned up required someone with prior management experience. Secondly, because of the past cronyism at the agency involving persons of all races from the law enforcement community in general, it would have been preferable to appoint someone with no ties to the people seeking the grant money. Finally, he is the one who injected the element of race into his appointment-not me or anyone else. Perhaps he now regrets his choice of words. I do wish him the best in his new position and hope he succeeds in his job.